England resumes outdoor gatherings; Johnson says he hopes to avoid another lockdown
In this handout from Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice – Brother and sister Amira Atia, 3, (L) and Adem Atia, 4, (R) hold each other in front of a Covid-19 Memorial Wall that has begun opposite Parliament on March 29, 2021, in London, England. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe For Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice/Getty Images)
BRITISH prime minister Boris Johnson said on Monday (29) he hoped that England would not need to go into another lockdown if the public obey the rules and coronavirus vaccines continue to be effective.
People in England rushed outside Monday to enjoy sports, picnics and other previously prohibited activities, as the nation entered the second phase of its coronavirus lockdown easing thanks in large part to a successful vaccination drive.
“I am hopeful, I don’t see anything in the data right now that would cause us to deviate from the roadmap, but we have got to remain humble in the face of nature and we have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the British public,” Johnson told a news conference.
England’s months-old rules have been relaxed to enable outdoor gatherings of up to six people, or two households, in what newspapers have dubbed ‘Happy Monday’.
Under the UK government’s staggered lockdown lifting plan for England, schools reopened on March 8 and an official stay-at-home order ended Monday, allowing team and individual amateur sports to restart.
Non-essential retailers and services such as hairdressers will reopen from April 12, when outdoor drinking in pub gardens can also resume.
Limited indoor mixing in hospitality premises will then be allowed from mid-May, while many other remaining restrictions will be eased on June 21, if the outlook remains positive.
The devolved governments of the UK’s other nations — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are moving at their own pace.
‘Back to normal’
Johnson said he hoped Monday “will kick-start a great British summer of sport -– with people of all ages reunited with teammates, and able to resume the activities they love”.
But his government is urging vigilance as another wave of coronavirus sweeps Europe, and in a video message posted on Twitter he urged people to enjoy their new freedoms cautiously.
“It’s vital that we don’t overdo it and risk all the progress we’ve made,” Johnson said, in a nod to Britain’s much-reduced coronavirus infection, hospitalisation and death rates compared to earlier this year.
“Please follow the new rules carefully so that we can gradually get back to normal together.”
With more than 126,000 deaths, Britain has one of the world’s worst mortality rates from the pandemic.
But the level of new infections has been falling since early January and is now averaging around 5,000 cases a day.
Meanwhile on Sunday (28) the country passed the milestone of inoculating more than 30 million adults with a first coronavirus vaccine dose.
Britain has so far been using two jabs, developed by Oxford University/AstraZeneca and BioNTech/Pfizer.
The first batch of 17 million doses of US company Moderna’s vaccine is set to be delivered next month, easing concerns about an imminent shortfall in supplies.
The government has insisted it is on course to hit its target of offering a first jab to all adults by the end of July, and that follow-up second doses are also on target.
Johnson, whose own hair has grown increasingly unruly, said at the weekend he was looking forward to going to the barbers, and to a pint of beer.
Jessica Warren-Basham and Johnny Cope, from Hampshire in southern England, were forced to postpone their wedding three times due to the pandemic.
Their original 180-person guestlist has been cut to just six for their rearranged nuptials Monday lunchtime.
“It makes it a lot easier because it’s just inviting the parents really,” Cope told BBC radio ahead of the ceremony.
Mark Sesnan, chief executive of a leisure centre chain, said it felt “absolutely fantastic” to welcome customers back.